After visiting Flint's idled water treatment plant, which distributed water contaminated with toxic lead to the city's residents, Donald Trump made an appearance at Bethel United Methodist Church in the stricken city. At the majority black church, Trump was reaching out to black voters in Michigan who, however, are overwhelmingly Democrats.
The visit ended abruptly when protesters inside the church started shouting. Pastor Rev. Faith Green Timmons asked Trump to refrain from making a political speech at the church when he brought up Hillary Clinton's support for trade agreements, such as NAFTA, that are widely viewed by members of organized labor as having killed thousands of American jobs.
It was on September 3 in Detroit, at another majority black church, that Trump had vowed to visit Flint. The toxic water crisis in Flint, he said, should have "never happened." Political infighting between the state and local governments characterized the response to the leaching of toxic lead into the city's drinking water when local officials switched to sourcing drinking water to the Flint River. The resulting contamination made Flint the focus of international attention.
“It used to be that cars were made in Flint and you couldn’t drink the water in Mexico and now the cars are made in Mexico and you can’t drink the water in Flint,” Trump said at the church in Flint. “It’s terrible.”
But his remarks were cut short -- he spoke for just over five minutes -- when protesters interrupted his speech with jeers and questions about housing discrimination. Bethel United Methodist Church’s pastor Rev. Faith Green Timmons interrupted Trump and asked him to stay away from talking politics when Trump started criticizing Clinton.
"I asked him to stick to what he was originally going to say,” said Rev. Timmons afterward. “He’s welcome to come and see what we’re doing in Flint," she continued while pointing out her congregation's charitable work. The church is among many in Flint that distributes free bottled water. Many residents of Flint continue to use bottled water for drinking, cooking, and bathing despite assurances from President Barack Obama, and both the federal and state governments that the water is safe to use. She also said that Trump has made "degrading" remarks about blacks and Latinos.
Trump addressed Ford Motor Co's announcement today that it is pulling out a significant portion of its manufacturing from the United States. “We shouldn’t allow it to happen,” he said. “They’ll make their cars, they’ll employ thousands and thousands of people, not from this country … and we’ll have nothing but more unemployment in Flint.” Ford announced today that 100% of its small-car production is going to Mexico. He then criticized Hillary Clinton for her support of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was signed by her husband, former president Bill Clinton.
It was then that Rev. Timmons interrupted Trump and asked him to instead address Flint's continuing problems. The candidate then brought his talk to a close and said that the damage can be corrected “by people who know what they’re doing … I will say that we can fix this problem. It’s going to take time. It’s amazing the damage that has been done.”
Among the groups protesting against Trump inside the church was Michigan People’s Campaign. One of the members on hand sought to ask Trump whether his business had discriminated against blacks. The protester was asked to leave the church.
There were but a few Trump supporters on hand outside the church. Admission to the church was by invitation only and was limited to members of the congregation and members of the traveling press corps. Nevertheless, some protesters did enter the church.